Santiago, Oct 26 (IANS) Chileans have cast their ballots in a referendum vote on re-drafting the country’s incumbent Constitution, which was enacted in 1980 during the reign of dictator Augusto Pinochet.
President Sebastian Pinera urged people to participate in Sunday poll after casting his vote earlier in the day, Xinhua news agency reported.
“I am asking you to come and vote because your voice, your opinion, is important to us,” Pinera told the media at a polling station.
“Vote so that all voices are heard. That is the way we strengthen our democracy and together build a better Chile for everyone,” he added
A plebiscite was initially scheduled for April 26, but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Deputy Minister of Public Health Paula Daza told local press that those who have tested positive for the disease and their close contacts were barred from voting.
Voters were also required to wear a face mask, abide by social distancing rules at polling centres and bring their own pencil to mark the ballot.
In the referendum, voters were asked to decide whether Chile needs a new constitution and, if the answer is “yes”, should the document be drafted by Congress or by a constituent assembly elected solely for that purpose.
Holding the plebiscite was the centrepiece of the political class’ effort to defuse the unrest that began in October 2019 with protests against an increase in subway fares in Santiago and quickly grew into a national uprising over the extreme economic inequality prevailing in Chile.
More than 30 people have died in the course of protests, many at the hands of the police, who have been denounced by domestic and international organizations for torturing, sexually assaulting and maiming demonstrators.